Billionaire investor Warren Buffett fielded questions at the annual shareholders meeting for his company Berkshire Hathaway. He offered thoughts and insights on everything from Republicans voting to repeal Obamacare, to the Wells Fargo scandal, to how artificial intelligence and technology might reshape America. Here are some highlights:
Repealing Obamacare is “a huge tax cut for guys like me”
When asked about the bill Republicans in Congress just voted to pass to repeal and replace Obamacare, Buffett signaled his distaste for a tax cut provision. Obamacare pays for health care for Americans in part by taxing wealthier people. The Republican bill scraps that tax on the wealthy.
And Buffett has apparently done the math here. If the Republican bill had been law last year, he said, “my federal taxes would have gone down 17 percent last year, so it’s a huge tax cut for guys like me.”
“That is in the law that was passed a couple days ago,” he added. “Anybody with $250,000 a year of adjusted gross income and a lot of investment income is going to have a huge tax cut.”
In the past, Buffett has bristled at tax policy that he sees as favoring the wealthy — famously saying it’s not fair that he pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary.
The medical cost “tapeworm”
Buffett said at the meeting that health care costs have become a bigger issue for American businesses than taxes.
He said if you go back to about 1960, corporate taxes were about 4 percent of GDP and now they’re about 2 percent of GDP. At that time, healthcare was 5 percent of GDP and now it’s 17 percent of GDP. “So when American business talks about taxes strangling our competitiveness,” he said, “they’re talking about something that as a percentage of GDP has gone down from 4 to 2.” Meanwhile, medical costs have exploded. “So medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness,” he said.
He argued against the tax system crippling competitiveness “or anything of the sort.” He also noted that other developed countries appear to have found better ways to contain medical costs.